Monthly Archives: October 2010

Carousel [Week 42, Year 2010]

Summer 2010: Memories - Photo: Tamara Chetcuti; Location: Marsalforn (Gozo)

It’s seriously stormy tonight and I’m here at home relaxing and not bothered to do any uni work. Malta was a non-stop daily rain fest as of late only to be followed by the last three days of blissful sunshine. When the rain stopped it was like spring. The town I live in came alive. I used to live in the busy town centre of Naxxar all my life and thought I’d find it hard to move to a quiet town which once was the base for the British military in Malta. However, I’ve grown to love this little place called Pembroke. There are so many open spaces and interesting areas to walk in. Every day you can discover something new. On beautiful sunny days you see families on pic-nics (today was no exception) and people flying kites. As I was walking home around 2pm I noticed all the dry muddy patches I had been seeing during this last rainy spell (and after the brutal Maltese summer) had turned into high carpets of grass, blossoming flowers and dozens of butterflies at every turn. The flora and fauna here are amazing. Here are some pictures I took this afternoon with my Sony Ericsson W890i:

If I didn’t have to go on an interview assignment today (with Funk Initiative who are a super cool awesome band!) then I would have woken up really early and photographed the sunrise from the cliffs around Pembroke and gone on a photography spree around town. Always wanted to do that! Hope to get a chance some time.

Anyway, here’s the best stuff I found on the interwebz this week:

  • Technically, I read this over a week ago but forgot to post it. Is the Recruitment Consultant a dead occupation? Should recruiters use Facebook and other social media to choose the right employee? Read on, here.
  • I have been obsessed with anything related to India since the age of 10 and really hope to visit someday. Recently, I found an artist, designer and decor lover from Mumbai who runs a cool blog with his designs which have an Indian element to them. I’m loving it! Watch his work at ArtnLight.
  • 30+ Inspirational MEET THE TEAM web pages. Every company website has that page where you’re introduced to the people behind the company’s success. In most cases, its really boring (especially on Maltese company websites) but this site has collected some of the most entertaining ‘Meet the Team’ pages. Enjoy!
  • And here’s one of my favourite MEET THE TEAM pages: Hipstery.com. These guys get you to answer a quiz and according to your answers they pick the perfect t-shirt for you and deliver it in a cool paper box packaging. Although the team’s identity is totally mysterious in this case, I really like when these kind of pages don’t really give titles but just explain the roles of the individual and maybe give them another identity. After all, a title is just a title. It’s what you do that counts!
  • Did you know that Hitler was a hipster? Click the comic above to visit hipsterhitler.com for the latest in Nazi fashion.

  • How to Make IDEAS happen! – According to Scott Belsky having an idea is not even half the job done. There’s so much more to it than that…
  • My favourite MUSIC PLAYER site is nutsie.com. It features music news and cool Top 100 playlists! The current one is the Top 100 Halloween songs: convenient if you’ve been bribed into being the DJ at some Halloween party and need to sample some tracks for inspiration.
  • I constantly use chill-out, meditation and concentration playlists to get me through my stressful days. The right atmosphere can really help you relax and I found out that if I listen to a frequency of 852Hz my muscles immediately loosen and I feel so good. These are known as the Solfeggio Frequencies. You really should give them a try. And you can find many on Youtube too! ūüôā

Switch off the lights, Select Full Screen, Click Play and Zone Out. If you click the owner of this video’s channel you will find a whole collection of chill out songs set to stunning BBC Earth documentary clips and other nature scenes. Nature and Ambient Music – you can’t deny their healing power!

I can’t tell you how inspirational I find this TED talk. It is probably my favourite TED talk ever! I listen to it so often and thought I’d share it just in case you still haven’t come across it. Steven Johnson speaks about where GOOD IDEAS COME FROM. Visit www.ted.com for more inspiration.


  • First rainbow I saw this autumn! ‚̧

Hope you had a splendid weekend everyone. I have some half-started blogs in my Drafts folder which I need the time to finish off and post to the world wide web. I would love to be a full time blogger, but as a full time Honours student, there is no chance in hell. So until then, I hope to keep you inspired and motivated with my little offerings. Then again, better to post one good blog post than several blog entries with no real substance.

Much Love, Peace and Respect,

Tammy.

Carousel [Week 41, Year 2010]

 

Qumran, West Bank - photo by Luca Tufigno

 

I am a girl of many interests but I want this blog to not only have diverse entries on topics that catch my interest but to also be of usefulness to others, to spark debate, to inspire others when they’re running dry and to evoke creativity in people’s lives. One person who has helped me make this conscious decision is a woman I never actually met. Her name is Gala Darling and she is a professional full-time blogger. I have been following her blog for the past year now and have even purchased some of her podcasts. I may not agree with all her posts but one thing’s for sure: she is a very inspirational lady!

Her avid readers have been following a weekly tradition for quite some time now known as Carousel which is a list of links to things that have caught the blogger’s eye during the week. This week I decided to induct myself in this tradition and start posting my own Carousel!

The carousel comes from the French carousel and the Italian carosello, meaning a rotating circular structure with seats for riders used for amusement purposes. The carousel or the merry-go-round is a fun whirlwind adventure, so I hope you enjoy the ride. ūüôā

 

I think I should put riding one of these on my bucket list...

 

First, two cool links I found on GalaDarling.com:-

And here are some more cool links I found this week! Knock yourselves out…

  • Does Self Empowerment lead to Procrastination? – I found this blog through Gala Darling but the blog post I discovered myself and it really got me thinking. Are you an extremely driven and ambitious person but find yourself procrastinating over and over again? This is what happens to me and I have been slowly trying to change my ‘why-do-now-what-you-can-do-tomorrow’ nature. I even wrote a blog (or two?) about the matter on my old blog BlackCherie. Sometimes, it’s a matter of habitual routine I guess.
  • Bloggers can change the world! Last week, I discovered BLOG ACTION DAY 2010 and today, 15 October, thousands of bloggers (including myself) blogged on the topic of WATER. Click the picture below to sign a petition to have an International Water Treaty to Provide Clean Water Everywhere. Water is precious.

 

Sign the Petition

 

  • While attending a workshop on ‘Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace’ last Friday, one of the speakers showed us this. I LOVE IT!

 

I like the title of one blog "The US Air Force: Armed with Social Media". Haha. Fantastic stuff and applicable to all organisations using Social Media.

 

  • “Is Malta becoming Silicon Valley or India?” – an interesting post by a friend of mine, Mark “Biwwa” Debono on the “real” reason Malta attracts so much investors and why more graduates, professionals and specialists seem to want to leave the island.
  • Skype is good. Facebook is good. If they both integrate this is the result.
  • The European Journalism Centre is offering all European youth a great journalistic opportunity. Check it out at YoungReporters.net. I wanted to take part but I think I have to use my own native language, Maltese, which I am fluent in but cannot use as confidently and wittingly as the English language.

My music fix:-

My fave tunes and videos of the month are…

I love club anthem sounding tracks!

Cee-Lo got his soul on for his new album Lady Killer. MUST BUY IT when it’s out!

The bloody best tribute cover album of the year! From a crazy Hall and Oates fan, with Love.

An oldie but a motherchuckin’ goodie! Word Up. B-)

Hope you enjoyed my carousel this week and hope to keep this a regular fixture which I can post every weekend, possibly on Sundays.

Peace, love and good weekend vibes!

Tammy

Which comes first: Internet or Water?

Today, 15 October 2010,¬†is BLOG ACTION DAY. This is an initiative where thousands of bloggers are invited to blog about a particular global issue on a specific day in the year. There have been different themes in the few year’s of its existence ranging from poverty to climate change. This year, the focus is on the WATER CRISIS.

One of the topics of the water crisis which has really caught my eye is the concept of having the access to safe and clean drinking water a fundamental human right. And by that, water and sanitation would be a basic requirement that the government of every country should provide along with infrastructure, education and other basic needs. The affect of poor sanitation which is linked to lack of drinking water and proper sewage facilities, kills an estimate of about 1.5 million children under the age of five and contributes to 443 million lost school days. So you see, the lack of this right has a ripple effect on other sectors like education.

When I was reading about this topic as indicated on an article I received on the latest Blog Action Day newsletter, I immediately remembered something my Public Policy lecturer mentioned during my previous academic year. I think we were talking about poverty and government policy that day, which is a topic I have been following closely for the past two years. I remember him ranting about some news from Africa where one man requested that Internet be made a fundamental human right. The idea was new to me but as I conducted research on it I realised this has already been investigated by developed and developing countries. A BBC survey held this year found out that:-

87% of internet users felt internet access should be the “fundamental right of all people”.

More than 70% of non-users felt that they should have access to the net.

Now besides the obvious¬†problems of…

  • Getting free and smooth¬†internet access to certain rural areas which may not have electricity
  • Getting ISPs to provide access in areas that are outside of their geographical policy
  • Deciding on what kind of speed and connection should be available as a right
  • Determining level of state censorship of content on the Internet
  • Determing regulation or policy on the usage of public Internet access

…I¬†venture to ask¬†“How can we discuss such an option when our governments and policy makers can’t even sit down and agree on the basic human right of water and sanitation?”

Policy makers should be aware of the interlinking relationships between one commodity and another which as years go by are becoming more positively correlated. We cannot dismiss the effects of lack of water and sanitation on other factors. Funnily enough, bloggers are using the internet to spread this campaign. So the question remains: Which comes first, Internet or Water? Communication or health? I’d say communicating health, whether through the Internet or through proper sanitary facilities.

And as I end this blog, I leave you to enjoy this humorous article of how an uncontacted Amazon tribe got internet connection in their area. Amazing.

Happy BLOG ACTION DAY 2010.

Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace

This is my second installment on my review of FHRD’s National Annual Conference 2010.

During the event, I chose to attend one of the parallel workshops which focused on how social media and the workplace can be friends. The speakers were:-

Jon Worth

According to his blog, Jon Worth is a “European, social democrat, federalist, feminist, atheist, anti-monarchist, ENTJ, inline skater, blogger, website designer, avid Mac user and trainer.” The slides used in his presentation¬†are freely available on this page and can be used for any personal or corporate activities.

 

Jon Worth - Political blogger

 

Despite his success as a political blogger working even in Brussels for the EU, John chose to start off his intro talk with one of his most influential campaigns – The Atheist Bus Campaign. It all started with a comedy writer Ariane Sherine who commented in one of her articles that “atheists should advertise too”. Jon soon took the idea to a PledgeBank page and the reaction was like wildfire. Several other atheists agreed and a website dedicated to the cause was created in no time. By the time the campaign ended in April 2009, ¬£153,516.51 managed to be raised in order to post atheism advertisements on London buses.

 

 

Picture an old Maltese lady on the bus stop gasping "X'gńßarukaza!"

 

The whole point of mentioning this was quite obvious especially seeing that some HR Managers who posed questions on the floor were worried of keeping social media present for staff to use during work hours. The Atheist Bus Campaign is a great way of showing how fast a company’s message can reach people. The trick is to use such tools of great power with skillfulness. Worth recommended that all companies should set up a social media policy and referred to Dell as having an excellent policy companies can follow. There are instances where workers use their personal side of social media to post work related comments, notes or blogs. The reality is that even off work, employees are representing their companies. So as long as companies have a structure where they trust their employees but still have a policy at hand, any breach of trust can be gently disciplined as subject to the company’s social media policy.

Mr Worth gave out too many good pieces of advice for companies to use that I can’t tackle all of them here but I should mention one last thing. Companies should not be afraid of the negative side of social media like angry customers posting negative blogs on a company’s product or service, or a well-known person with many Tweet followers posting a negative remark on a company, or perhaps a YouTube video of an employee being caught misbehaving at work (the latter does not apply to Transport Malta employees – their reputation is already ruined). CEOs should just make sure that employees know how to uniformly react to such comments and should be aware that there are actually companies that offer software (free or trail-version) to help track such comments so as to react immediately to any negative media attention. An example Worth mentioned was Google Alerts, which he encouraged all companies to get for free. This software sends you an email every time your name, your company’s name or any particular search field you enter is mentioned on the internet. Remember, the internet is your friend. So if you’re apprehensive of using social media and other technologies, just know you can use the technologies themselves to help you find the information needed to conquer your fears.

Saviour Balzan

 

Saviour Balzan - Journalist and Editor of MaltaToday

 

Saviour Balzan is the editor of MaltaToday which is one of the most followed Maltese newspapers online. Balzan is known as quite the passionate and ballsy journalist in Malta getting into trouble in the press quite a few times. During his intro session in the workshop Balzan admittedly confessed that he actually didn’t even have any social media accounts and hardly ever read let alone answered his emails. I believe him. When I was about 14 I tried to send him some emails for a project or article (my mind fails me now) and he never replied. I remember, being the moody teen that I was (and I kind of still am), I was offended for quite a while as about that same time I had emailed other newspaper sites which replied immediately. I’m not sure where he lives now but at the time I lived two streets down from him (2 minutes on foot). I remember wanting to knock at his door and give him a piece of my mind! I used to bump into him quite regularly near Maxim’s Pastizzeria in Naxxar mostly on Sundays. I never spoke to him though. But I shall stop this flashback now for fear of sounding like a stalker.

And now I was sitting two rows in front of him listening to him talk about social media in the workplace. Despite not really using social media or understanding technical terms Balzan gave some really interesting information based on his experience in the past ten years of his web portal’s existence. Most of it was related to a news organisation which I found interesting as I work in media but can be applied to different types of organisations.

The most interesting point Balzan mentioned was the collection of market data from social media. At what time do people log in, use and/or comment on your social media during the day? Maybe these are the hours when you should post the most news, articles, product and service updates, competitions and job vacancies. From where are people logging in? The south, the north, central Malta?

And a very funny example he also mentioned was the recent Tiffany Pisani craze. A video posted by the BBC or a Maltese website was quickly linked with ads for all types of Maltese products: holidays in Malta, hotels and even Health Insurance! The amount of traffic viewing the videos at the time meant that all sorts of companies were trying to cash in on this form of social media.

Overview

The session was good but not enough questions were asked. Some managers still seem to stay back from social media but in time it will became the mainstream option even in Malta. As Balzan said “It’s not only a trend, but also about survival and making money.”

However, both speakers admitted in their concluding remarks that social media doesn’t work for everyone and it very much depends on the type of organisation and the information they want to give out. Some company operations are of a very delicate nature and must be monitored carefully or kept to the strictest confidentiality.

“At the end of the day, it depends on what you want. Do you want to be liked or talked about?” – Saviour Balzan

“If you don’t want people to interact and talk about your products online then don’t open a Facebook page for your company.” – Jon Worth

Explore the options and decide what is best for YOUR organisation.

“I manage people. What do you do?”

People Managers. Human Resource Managers. Whatever you prefer. They both sound weird, although the former seems less offensive. Different terms but the same role – managing the human work force in an organisation.

During my first Economics lesson way back when I was thirteen (that’s only 8 years ago but it seems like centuries to me), our teacher taught us about the fundamental starting point of all economic studies, better known as, SCARCITY. We learned the basics that day – resources, resource allocation, needs, wants. And amidst these terms and their definitions came the concept of human beings as resources. I laughed at it back then but now I understand its implications on society and the economy. More so, that lesson introduced a concept of not only an economic nature to me but also of a business, financial, psychological and social nature. At the time I remember taking a keen interest in Human Resources or HR especially after working a couple of part-time jobs in my late teens that didn’t possess the most popular of HR Managers. It is a tricky role to be occupying. For a while I held the thought that if one was an HR Manager, the staff would either hate them or love them. The reason is because the HR is the person in charge of the work environment, employee satisfaction, staff social and community work activities, roster and shift placements and so much more related to the employee. Although, in essence there are many internal and external factors that affect labour retention and employee satisfaction, the HR Manager is seen as the one who should maintain the balance at work. It is a tough job and some decisions the HR makes and the style of management they apply can really harm the company if done wrongly or carelessly.

Well, on Friday 8 October 2010, I decided to attend my first ever HR conference organised by the Foundation for Human Resources Development (FHRD): National Annual HR Development Conference and HR & Training Fair 2010. The theme this year was “Choose change today for sustainable organisations” and was a relevant one to consider seeing that in the last few years of recession companies were seeking to reduce labour costs but are now trying to manage their staff better possibly through recruitment and current employee motivation. HR Managers must be even more aware of micro factors in their company and macro factors in their economy and internationally, as these greatly affect the working population on so many levels.

 

I've never seen employees so ecstatic about going to work. Whatever that HR team are doing, they should keep on doing it!

 

Moving on...

Error #1: I showed up at the conference in jeans. I usually dress smart for these events but I was in a hurry and opted for a shirt, jeans and gladiator sandals. MAJOR ERROR. The only other woman wearing the exact same attire was pregnant. Everyone else was in suits and executive wear. We take things so seriously in Malta. Abroad, I bet people would dress a little less formal. Anyway, this  is just me ranting because of my obvious wardrobe malfunction. Well, at least one of the speakers was in jeans. Jon Worth FTW!

Error #2: The irony of the professional image of the event (suits and all) was that there were no security guards and no identification tags were given to participants. I could have just walked in and attended all the sessions without anyone batting an eyelid. It’s a shame as this was a paid for event and should have been exclusive. When you pay money for something you don’t expect freeloaders to walk in. Party crashing is cool until it’s “my” party that’s being crashed.

Kudos #1: The sessions ran really smoothly and the speakers stuck to the allocated time. We even finished 5 minutes earlier than expected. Not a big difference but still cool.

Kudos #2: I loved the speakers. I really did. The first speaker was Annika Galea – Director of HR at Hilton Malta. I felt she was perfect as an opening speaker and her presence and delivery generated the highest number of feedback questions from the floor. Annika spoke about end-to-end engagement in HR and it was a very interesting topic especially for the student who is looking into a career in HR. The second speaker was Joshua Zammit, the Deputy Vice-President of Actavis Group. He had a very different approach which was also interesting – HR Transformation and Innovation. One aspect he covered, which really struck me was that “an organisation ismade of human beings but it can be the most dehumanising environment a person may interact in.” He recommended a book about the topic which talks about a company called HCL which evolved on this concept. Their mantra is to “Put the human being back in business” and the book is called “Employee First, Customer Second”. The last speaker was John C. Grech – a visiting lecturer of International Economics at the Mediterranean Academy at the University of Malta. He mentioned some really good points on a macro level and invited participants to question how globalisation is affecting their organisation.

Kudos #3: The number of participating companies increased from 90 to 128 from last year and the number of participants present was over 300! Impressive and noteworthy.

Kudos #4: There were four parallel workshops which covered some really good diverse topics. The first which was on organisational law and the third which was on organisational change did not really tickle my fancy, so I was stuck on the second and fourth. The first was on HR metrics or benchmarks in business strategy. I thought that would be quite interesting – understanding standardisation in HR evaluation, performance etc. However, I ended up opting for the fourth workshop which was on “Harnessing the Power of Social Media in the Workplace.” At least, I would have hit two birds with one stone – attending my first HR conference and my first Social Media workshop. The speakers were Jon Worth and Saviour Balzan, so good stuff all round!

Looking back, it was quite a positive experience. I probably felt a bit lost on the day because I didn’t know anyone, although I think I did recognise a few students in suits. If I had to make a wild guess I’d say that 99% of the people present were HR Managers and 60% knew each other already from previous conferences or business partnerships et al. I did speak to one or two HR managers and I bumped into a lecturer and the Young Enterprise team. So that was cool I guess. Hopefully, I will also be posting a blog evaluation of the Social Media workshop as I found it very relevant to my line of voluntary work. Some of you who work in media or any other organisation, to be honest, will find it quite informative. It will be a brief assessment as you have to understand that I paid to attend this workshop. It’s only fair.

If you have any questions or feedback to add on this event review just post below or send me an email on development@insite.org.mt.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation or agreement with FHRD to review their events. This was written purely for personal and educational reasons.

The Life of a Coloured Maltese Citizen

When you’re young, you’re oblivious to discrimination and other negative behaviours. You react to them but you don’t know why they make you feel so bad and why people act like that. Slowly, you begin to observe the attitudes of the people around you, interpret media messages, learn about cultures, attend history class and ask questions. As you get older, you begin to realise that not all is equal in the world and you may seek the answer to this inequality or choose to accept it, thus, graduating in the school of ignorance.

Discrimination is a topic that affects me personally, but it already has or probably will affect anyone who has ever lived on this planet we call home. Some forms of discrimination will go unnoticed in people’s lives and some will be more penetrating. It depends on the experiences we live.

Exactly one week ago, a friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would accept being interviewed on my lived experience as a Coloured Maltese Citizen (let’s refer to this term as CMC) growing up on the Maltese Islands, as part of her dissertation. I promptly accepted her request and met up with her today afternoon. The reason I mention this is a no-brainer. Whether you wanted to or not, the words “racial discrimination” or racism as it is usually called, have probably sprung to mind after reading the title of this dissertation. I don’t blame you. It is natural to perceive that a foreigner or “not-fully Maltese” person living on the Maltese Islands may experience difficulties of a social or political nature. Of course, the same can be true for a Maltese in a foreign setting. In this case, I will be referring to the coloured individual refusing to use terms such as multiethnic and multiracial, as really, we all have such diverse ancestral backgrounds that putting ourselves in one particular race is slightly ridiculous.

The CMC is a rare breed both as a Maltese population and worldwide population statistic. I don’t actually have proof of this but I just know it because I grew up on this small island where nothing can really escape you. When I was young my Mum would tell me that she and Dad where the third African-Maltese couple to settle down in Malta. I don’t know if that’s true but I believe that there were only a few at the time. This was around 1980 – “When Dom Mintoff was Prime Minister” as my mum likes to put it. Nowadays, there are many coloured children being born to African-Maltese parents. Those days my mum felt very welcome in Malta although she thought everyone was arguing when they talked and that the country’s Prime Minister was the most unique fellow she ever saw! Most Africans living on the islands were Nigerians who came to play football. The Maltese quickly took a liking to these foreigners who excelled in the Maltese football teams. However, as the years passed by, circumstances changed. The racial tension has increased dramatically rather than decreased, in my humble opinion.

During the interview today, I tried to look back at my childhood days. Some questions posed involved my upbringing and how it affected me. How did people treat me seeing that I was a coloured child? Not much different than the regular Maltese child. However, I often believe it was because of the environment of the times. It may have been harder for the ones who were born 10 years later than me but I can’t really say. In fact, I experienced more racial discrimination in my teens than as a child. Hopefully, my friend’s dissertation will shed more light on this. I am taking her word on this (although I did a quick Google search just in case) that there are no articles, dissertations or publications on the matter in Malta. She is the first one who is researching the topic. I found this very interesting as it is something I always thought of but never really pondered upon long enough.

And what about statistics? This is something I never bothered to check. I know that sometimes there are articles or news features on TV on the number of Australian-Maltese in the world, or Canadian-Maltese, but what about African-Maltese or any other type of coloured person who was raised in Malta, whether born here through mixed or African parents or adopted by a Maltese couple. (According to the Maltese Citizenship Act, if you were adopted at less than 10 years old after 1st August 1989, then you are eligible for Maltese citizenship – then again, I’m not a lawyer so correct me if I’m wrong!). So do these statistics exist or not? I’ve never heard of them till now. And how come in a nation where racial-phobia seems high, is there nobody compiling such information? And I’m not talking solely about illegal immigrants here because those are not only coloured, but may come from different races. And anyway, we hear about the numbers of illegal immigrants coming in all the time, so nothing new to record statistic-wise there. If anyone could guide me on the matter, I would be forever grateful.

I think the whole interview opened my eyes to my ethnicity more than ever now, as no one has ever sat me down and asked me to open up about it before. And based on my friend’s reactions when interviewing me, I think I have added a brand new dimension to this topic for others to discover.

Although I have mentioned that not much has been done regarding this topic, I shall not elaborate much on the matter for now. I feel I need to do more research and help out all those who want to look further in this field. In fact, just half an hour after the interview today, I came up with a great idea and hopefully I can implement it some time next year. I hope more CMCs come out with their lived experiences on the Maltese Islands, and if you know anyone who fits this category do tell me so that I can refer them to my friend who I feel is exploring such an important area in Maltese society. Studies like this will not only help us understand the psychology of such individuals but also the way they see Maltese and Gozitan people through their eyes, the social behaviour traits of Maltese with foreigners, the effectiveness of legislation involving such people and much more.

And on a final note, I do not feel Maltese and I do not feel African – I belong to the Universe. I interact with humans. I interact with animals. I interact with nature. But I don’t interact with races. Race is a marketing tool. So quit worrying and rely on your character, not what your birth certificate says.

Race is a Marketing Tool